St Paul’s take Thames Team Trophy in terrific style at record-breaking Schools’ Head of the River

In a day where fast streams sent records tumbling – including three of the four Championship events – St Paul’s School and Headington School once again rose to the top of the domestic pile


2024 Schools' Head winners, St Paul's School. (Photo: Ed Evans/Junior Rowing News.)

With racing so limited over the previous few months, it felt like a relief for spectators in Putney to see crew No.1 Shiplake’s bow appear around the Fulham bend for the 2024 edition of the Schools’ Head of the River. The organising committee, aware of the speed of the stream, followed the Port of London Authority’s ebb tide yellow flag advice and removed J15 crews from the draw alongside other boats they deemed not to have enough experience. Nearly 300 entries remained to fight for honours on the reverse Boat Race course, however.

St Paul’s made good on their evident potential by securing the Open Championship Eights headship despite suffering with crew illness in the weeks leading up to the race. Their record-breaking 16:24 row – which was the fastest any crew has ever gone at this competition – was enough to see off the attentions of holders Shiplake College, who finished some 11 seconds back in second. King’s College Wimbledon were a further second down in third.

The impressive form of Bobby Thatcher’s program at St Paul’s did not stop at the top, as his charges secured a further two wins in the Junior 16 championship and third eights categories. The school’s second eight also narrowly missed out on a win, finishing two seconds behind Eton College, whose first eight pulled out shortly before the start of racing due to sickness. St Paul’s overall results clinched them the Thames Team Trophy for the fastest aggregate time of any three eights.

“I am just relieved we got through it as we’ve been hit hard with illness over the past few weeks,” said Bobby. “Two of our best oarsmen only came back the week before the race so it was a bit chaotic. To go out and win comfortably was great but the guys are a little disappointed as they know their level. We’re excited to show that in the summer as this group is phenomenally talented.”

Cox and stern pair of junior women's eight Girls’ Championship Eights winners, Headington School. (Photo: Ed Evans/Junior Rowing News.)

On the women’s side, Headington returned to the top of the Girls’ Championship Eights tree by defeating an impressive Shiplake College boat by just over a second across the 4.25 mile course in. Much had been made of the form of Hinksey Sculling School, who had finished second at the Women’s Head of the River just a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday they took third, six seconds off the pace, in a field that also included strong outfits from Henley, Surbiton and Marlow.

Ryan Demaine, Director of Rowing at Headington School, said: “I am really happy with the performance of the club as a whole. Having five eights on the water is a testament to the kind of athletes we have, given the winter we’ve been through with limited water time. I am pleased with the first eight’s performance over the last two heads; the standard of women’s rowing is a real step on from previous years, given the margins between the crews. There is no doubt that racing in the summer is going to be very close. It’s going to be anyone’s game.”

Girls' quad Girls’ Championship Quad winers, Wycliffe College. (Photo: Junior Rowing News.)

Wycliffe College, whose early season racing form was impressive to say the least, delivered a resounding statement of intent to the rest of the field in the Girl’s Championship Quads. After losing out in the final of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta last summer to Tideway Scullers School (who were third here) – more on them to come – Greg Flower’s athletes put in a stunning performance to secure the quad title by nearly 35 seconds. Their time was also the third-fastest junior women’s time of the day.

“It was an impressive finish to the head race season, which should be setting us up well moving into training camp,” commented Greg. “It is reassuring for the girls that the consistent hard winter’s training has paid off. This is a very professional and driven group of female athletes eager to continue improving as we head into the regatta season.”

Boys' quad racing Open Championship Quad winners, Tideway Scullers School. (Photo: Ed Evans/Junior Rowing News.)

Not to be outdone, Tideway Scullers School also had an excellent day on the Tideway, securing the Open Championship Quad title by over 9 seconds. Marlow retained second place whilst Hinksey Sculling School finished third. This was the first year since 2013 where neither Windsor Boys nor Leander finished in the top three in this category at the Schools’ Head of the River (fourth and fifth respectively).

Richard Hawkins, who coached the Open TSS crew to victory, said: “We’ve taken advantage of the time on the water our Tideway base has given us when some of the opposition have been on land. This is the culmination of a solid winter’s training for the squad. This will give the team a good boost ahead of regatta season, but we expect some classy opposition to make the rest of the season competitive.”

For most of these crews, attention now either turns to the Oarsport Junior Sculling Head in just a day’s time or the promise of Easter training camps and summer side-by-side racing.

Get the full results here.